Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

A Two-Fold Conversation Management Function of Japanese Hedging:: Speaker-Centered and Listener-Centered

Miharu Nittono.

Researchers concur that hedging makes an important contribution to smooth conversation and that the Japanese language is rich with hedges. However, very few researchers have investigated the conversation management function of Japanese hedging in depth: There has been no systematic discussion which has defined exactly how a hedge can contribute to smooth conversation. This study approaches this untouched but important issue by analyzing 12 hours of recorded, casual conversation among 25 close friends.
A careful examination of the interactions between close friends revealed that the conversation management function of Japanese hedging can be divided into two types: speaker-centered purposes and listener-centered purposes. Interestingly, in my corpus, hedges used for these two purposes accounted for 50% each of the total hedging devices for a conversation management. This indicates that the participants in my study were making exactly the same effort through their hedging to balance the needs of the speaker with those of the listener.
The speaker-centered hedges specifically addressed a speaker's concern with holding the floor and controlling the conversation topic, while the listener-centered specifically addressed a speaker's concern with involving the listener in the on-going conversation. A speaker might delay or repeat an utterance so as to create a space for a listener to more readily respond, and this strategy not only encouraged more listener participation but increased the chance that participants could claim common ground.
This study suggests that hedging in Japanese is both a critical and a dynamic strategy in friend-friend talk, and that a two-fold perspective of speaker-centered/listener-centered is necessary to better understand how versatile Japanese hedging can be.


Miharu Nittono  (United States)

East Asian Languages and Cultures Faculty of Japanese Program
Columbia University

  • Japanese Hedging
  • Two-Fold Conversation Management Function
  • Speaker-Centered and Listener-Centered
Person as Subject
  • Nittono, Miharu

(Virtual Presentation, English)